Mishawaka schools makes masks mandatory

NOW: Mishawaka schools makes masks mandatory

MISHAWAKA, In -- School City of Mishawaka announced that masks will be mandatory for students after an all-time high of positive COVID-19 cases, all within the first month of school. 

“We’ve experienced more cases in four days this week than any time last year," said Superintendent Wayne Barker.

The numbers have been jumping in Mishawaka schools -- 25 of them reported over the last four days, and according to Barker, that number is just going to go up. 

“I know we’ve had positive cases today," Barker says, "so I can’t tell you what it will end up at the end of the day, but we’ll be over any number that we saw last year in a weekly total.”

Barker said they're worried that the numbers will spike even higher and too many students and staff will be quarantining to have in person learning, requiring a pivot back to virtual learning. To prevent that possibility, masks are once again mandatory for Mishawaka school students.

“We had 25% of our students last year completely virtual, all school year, and we know that wasn’t effective for the majority of those students. So we’re committed to being in person and we’re going to be as strong as we can to that commitment," said Barker.

Some Mishawaka residents agreed with this move.

Mahalha Chalulu said “I think that’s a good idea. Kids are still susceptible to COVID and it’s still really out there, especially with the variant going on and this variant is affecting children.”

Chalulu doesn't have children in the Mishawaka schools, but has a sister going to Penn-Harris-Madison, a school district where masks are optional, though there is pressure to make masks mandatory there as well.

Barker knows this decision will not be popular, but says it's what needs to be done: “What drove this decision was the data that we were seeing. We have a large number of positives, higher than ever. This is truly about us looking at our numbers and they’re far worse than we saw last school year with the number of kids who are out of our school, employees- and those issues are what drove our decision.”

School City of Mishawaka is not sure when masks will become optional again for students.

Penn-Harris-Madison's school board will be meeting on Monday, though it is currently unknown if they will announce a change in mask policy.

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